Domestic workers from the Philippines who got work permits from the Immigration Department before November 11 can get overseas employment certificates as scheduled, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong has said.

On Friday the Philippine government announced a 15-day suspension of the processing of citizens’ overseas employment certificates (OEC) so that it could investigate illegal recruitment practices, Ta Kung Pao reported.

The suspension started today – November 13 – and will last until December 1, but workers who got working visas from local authorities before November 11 will not be affected.

Matthew Cheung, the chief secretary, said on Sunday that the Immigration Department could extend work visas of Filipino domestic workers who are leaving the city, if necessary.

Cheung Kit-man, chairman of the Hong Kong Employment Agencies Association, believed that the suspension for nearly three weeks would affect about 1,000 local families.

The Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor and secretary for Labour and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong both said on Saturday that the probes from Manila were not targeted at Hong Kong.

Shiella Grace Estrada, chairman of Progressive Labor Union, said the Philippine government will investigate employment agencies in the Philippines and in Hong Kong which may be involved in suspicious illegal recruitment, Apple Daily reported.

Some Filipino workers have arrived in Hong Kong but ended up being sent to work in mainland China.

Some workers were scammed, as they had paid money to local agencies for help to get working visas in foreign countries like Germany and Russia – only to find out later that no work had been arranged for them.

She said there were around 100 such cases in Hong Kong last year.

Cheung Kit-man revealed that employment agencies in Macau would also be targeted by the Philippine government probe as they had arranged for Filipinos to work in Macau without proper working visa applications. Cheung said those maids only held tourist visas, Sing Tao Daily reported.

Meanwhile, about 40 Filipino workers protested outside the office of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong in Admiralty on Sunday, Oriental Daily reported.

They held a banner that said “Abolish OECs” and chanted slogans. They want their government to abolish Overseas Employment Certificates and stop using the certificates to make money.

Domestic workers need to pay HK$20 (US$2.56) to the Philippines government for each OEC application.

There are about 370,000 domestic workers in Hong Kong from the Philippines.